Chapter 18

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I stab the pork chop with my fork, getting a whiff of its savory aroma before eating

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I stab the pork chop with my fork, getting a whiff of its savory aroma before eating. It melts in my mouth, tasting of herbs and mesquite. Mom's cooking is delicious as always, which means she's feeling better than ever. Good, it's one less thing I have to worry about.

After taking a drink of iced water, I finish the last bite of my dinner. Gio bumps into my right arm, making the piece of meat hit my cheek. He reaches for one of the last croissants as Josh bumps my other arm while pouring himself more wine. Since the twins and Darious are now living with us, our seating arrangements have changed. I'm stuck in the middle, and quite frankly, it sucks.

"Well, this is the quietest dinner I've ever been a part of. Training must have been swell," Mom says, smoothly taking a sip of her delectable red wine.

She sits at the head of the table, swirling the glass around. Its bowl is bigger than her palm, yet fits her overall appearance. She went all out tonight, wearing one of her expensive, airy dresses, strapless for a tease, and her hair loose and twisted into an updo. It seems Darious' comment got to her and is out for revenge.

Darious chuckles under his breath. He lounges in the plush dining chair at the other end, finished with his dinner, and looking as impeccable as ever with his collared shirt buttoned all the way up. "If you call trying to kill each other training, then yes. It went swell."

Marc drops his fork. Its metal clunks harshly against the ironstone plate, nearly tarnishing the earthenware design. Mom's eyebrow twitches yet she maintains her cool. He will make an enemy of Mom if he keeps this up.

"I already told you. Hands-on practice is the best way to learn," Marc says.

Darious scoffs, "Conversing with your teammate is also a great learning method. Or did you forget our training together?"

"You guys trained together?" Gio asks, taking the words right out of my mouth.

An accomplished smile spreads on Darious' face. "Yes, we did. Although it was more like I trained him."

Marc stands up so quickly the chair scrapes across the wood floor. He thanks Mom for the meal, then makes an excuse that he has work to do. But when his door shuts rather forcibly, we all know he's pissed.

I'm itching to go see if he's okay, more so to find out why Darious gets under his skin so much. I know it's probably some ego thing, but I've never seen Marc get this upset over one pompous guy. I'm about to stand when Josh squeezes my knee, and boy does it hurt.

"You know what your problem is? You don't drink enough." Josh releases me to snatch the half-full bottle of wine and fills Darious' glass to the rim.

"There ya go. Don't forget to finish every last drop—unless you wanna be rude," he says, then pours himself another glass full to compliment Darious'.

"Really, Joshua. That's too much for one sitting. You don't have to finish it. I won't be offended if you don't," Mom says, yet the look in her eyes says the opposite. She challenging Darious and he's accepting it.

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